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French PM announces lifting of Covid restrictions and start date for vaccine pass

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday a two-step process for the lifting of some of France's remaining Covid restrictions, as well as confirming the start date for when the vaccine pass will come into force.

French prime minister Jean Castex and health minister Olivier Véran
French prime minister Jean Castex and health minister Olivier Véran. Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

The Prime Minister announced that the health pass will become a vaccine pass – denying entry for the unvaccinated to a variety of venues including bars, cafés and leisure centres – on Monday, January 24th.

Read full details HERE on the changes to the vaccine pass.

Also on January 24th, the vaccine booster programme will be opened up to children aged 12-17, although it will not be compulsory for this group to have a booster in order to be considered “fully vaccinated” for the purpose of the vaccine pass.

While cautioning that the health situation in the country remains tense, Castex said that a few more weeks of allowing hospital pressure to reduce, coupled with the effect of the vaccine pass, will allow the government to lift some restrictions.

You can find the detailed calendar of the changes HERE.

The two-step process is as follows:

From February 2nd:

  • Face masks will no longer be required outdoors
  • Limits on gatherings – currently set at 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors will end
  • Working from home for three days a week will no longer be compulsory, although it remains recommended for those who can

From February 16th:

  • Customers in venues including cinemas and sports grounds as well as passengers on trains will again to allowed to consume food and drinks
  • Bars will be permitted to offer standing service, as well as table service
  • Nightclubs which have been closed since early December can reopen

Others restrictions will remain in place, including the requirement for masks in indoor public areas.

The PM added that he hoped some rules could also be relaxed in schools on their return after the February holidays including mask rules, but added that this was still the subject of consultation.

French MPs last week passed the bill that allows the health pass to be converted into a vaccine pass – meaning that proof of vaccination will be required to enter a range of venues including sports grounds, gyms, leisure centres, bars, cafés, restaurants, tourist sites, cinemas, theatres and long-distance public transport.

An exact date for its start had not previously been confirmed.

Castex added that the vaccine pass will require either proof of complete vaccination (including booster shots for those eligible), proof of recent recovery from Covid or a certificate stating that a person cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons – these are issued by the state health system. 

There are some exemptions to this requirement, where a negative Covid test will be accepted instead, including children aged 12 to 16 and people needing entry to medical establishments as visitors or for non-urgent medical treatment.

Case numbers in France remain extremely high, with more than 400,000 new cases announced on each of the last three days.

However the case numbers don’t seem to be translating into exceptionally high numbers of patients in hospitals and intensive care units, although these numbers are rising and hospitals are under pressure.

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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